June 18, 2013

Modesto school board leader won't seek re-election

Modesto City Schools board President Nancy Cline will not run for re-election this year, saying she feels it is God's will.

Modesto City Schools board President Nancy Cline will not run for re-election this year, saying she feels it is God's will.

"I really feel God's calling me out. I don't know where he'll send me," Cline said Tuesday morning. She knows she'll be spending more time with her six grandchildren, who all live in Modesto.

Five of the seven Modesto board seats will be up for election in November. Steve Grenbeaux and Amy Neumann will remain, having won election to four-year terms in 2011.

Cathy Flores Hallinan, elected in 2011, resigned early in her term and the board appointed Stacie Morales to fill the spot until November, the next regular election. That race will be for a two-year term.

In a separate race, candidates will compete for four-year seats held by Cline, Cindy Marks, Rubén Villalobos and Sue Zwahlen.

Villalobos and Zwahlen confirmed Tuesday that they each intend to run for re-election. Morales said she will run, but has not decided if it will be for the two-year seat or a full-term spot.

Marks did not return requests for comment Tuesday. As board vice president, she would be in line to wield the gavel next year if re-elected. Marks is president of the California School Boards Association for 2013.

Cline said she learned a lot in her 12 years on the board.

"It has been a truly growing experience in a lot of ways," she said.

She first ran for the board at the urging of a group of Christian community members, she said, but took two years to decide to throw her hat in the ring. Her fear was that she would be too emotional for the job.

"I was afraid of crying in front of people," she said.

That did happen at a high-tension moment when she became the tearful, tie-breaking vote against teacher layoffs.

Then-Superintendent Jim Enochs pulled her aside later and told her she needed "to get a thick skin," she said. But knowing so many teachers made it hard.

"It's an emotional thing when you have friends you impact," Cline said.

Felt news coverage impact

Critical media coverage also had an impact.

"When people read in The Bee the attacks and the negative things, who would want to run?" she said.

This year, the board faced rallies and protests after firing four principals — three high school and one elementary. The last two meetings have included closed-door sessions to fill top school positions.

Cline said the board revised expectations for campus leaders.

"We're really working hard to have the principals' role change and have them be more the academic leader, hold them accountable," she said.

Schools now provide more help for individual needs.

"We feed everybody. There's an extended day for people who work. It's not just academics anymore. We've had to step in," she said.

Seeing the successes of programs she helped put in place as a board member has meant a lot, she said.

"The benefits far outweigh the negative," she said.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at or (209) 578-2339, on Twitter, @NanAustin,

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